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Rapid Review to Examine Safety of Mental Health Inpatients

Mental health experts welcomed the Government's decision to commission a rapid review into the safety of mental health patients in England but said it must be followed up by adequate funding to create better services.

Maria Caulfield, the minister responsible for mental health, said she was ordering the review as an "essential first step" to improving the quality of treatment following reports of "unsafe, poor-quality inpatient care in mental health, learning disability, and autism settings".

The review will be led by Dr Geraldine Strathdee, who currently chairs the Essex Mental Health Independent Inquiry looking into the deaths of around 2000 patients treated at a mental health ward in Essex between 2000 and 2020.

Ms Caulfield said that the rapid review would be separate from, but complementary to, the Essex inquiry. Announcing the move in a Commons written statement on Monday, she said: "Dr Strathdee brings a wealth of experience from working for over 20 years in senior roles in mental health policy, regulation, and clinical management, at national and regional levels."

Identifying Patient Safety Risks

Ms Caulfield said the investigation would "focus on what data and evidence is currently available to healthcare services, including information provided by patients and families, and how we can use this data and evidence more effectively to identify patient safety risks and failures in care". Dr Strathdee had "a longstanding passion for using data to improve services", she said.

The minister told MPs: "NHS England has also established a 3-year quality improvement programme which seeks to tackle the root causes of unsafe, poor-quality inpatient care in mental health, learning disability and autism settings. My officials will continue to work closely with their colleagues in NHS England to make sure the review is aligned with and complementary to the quality improvement programme.

Investment in Mental Health

Announcement of a review was welcomed by NHS Providers which said that trust leaders had been "extremely concerned about the unacceptable reports of abuse and poor care in mental health services in recent months". Miriam Deakin, interim deputy chief executive, said: "We hope this rapid review will identify and support the immediate action that's needed to improve patient safety and eliminate abuse in mental health services. We're pleased the minister has stressed the review will align with other work already underway in this area. It's really important there is a clear, consistent message about where to prioritise and focus efforts and resources."

She stressed that "inadequate resourcing and structural challenges" must be addressed too.

Sarah Hughes, chief executive of the mental health charity Mind, said: "This review needs to gather information on the much deeper-set systemic failings in mental health care, and establish what works in successful mental health settings that provide therapeutic and safe care." But she also called for "political leadership and willingness to invest in mental health to address the gaping holes in mental health care in England and Wales."

Mark Winstanley, the chief executive of Rethink Mental Illness, also welcomed the review but cautioned that it "can only succeed if staff and leadership teams engage". Earlier this month Dr Strathdee complained that her non-statutory public inquiry into mental health patient deaths in Essex was at risk because few current and former staff had come forward with evidence.